IMAGES – Churails is up again, in all its fire and fury – October 13, 2020

Fareiha Aziz, co-founder of Bolo Bhi, a digital rights and civil liberties advocacy group, says, “What prompted this requires clarity, whether [it was] public backlash which I know there was one.”

“But the restriction by Zee5 itself, whether a result of public backlash or request routed through PEMRA or PTA citing violation of code of conduct or law, needs further corroboration and clarity.”

Read the complete story here.

CNN – Pakistan’s TikTok ban is about censorship, not China – October 13, 2020


Experts have long been concerned about China’s ability to influence its allies to mirror its approach to the internet. China has worked for decades on its massive censorship mechanism, which shuts out content widely available elsewhere on the web.

So the decision to ban TikTok could be rooted in Pakistan’s desire to emulate its neighbor, rather than act as an attack on China, according to Usama Khilji, director of the Pakistani digital rights group Bolo Bhi.

“This could be taking a page out of the Chinese playbook. We know how heavy censorship regimes are in China,” said Khilji, who added that Pakistan has made use of the “Chinese model of media control.”

Read the complete news story here.

Arab News – Pakistan ready to unblock TikTok if ‘vulgar’ content removed – October 12, 2020

“It shows a regulatory environment where apps can be blocked and that makes the environment unfriendly to investors, especially in the tech sector at a time where the IT sector is growing,” Usama Khilji, director of Bolo Bhi, a civil society organization geared toward advocacy, policy, and research in the areas of digital rights in Pakistan, told Arab News. “Moreover, apps like TikTok are a source of income for thousands of content creators, with some having a following of more than 10 million. This shows the economic potential that such a ban averts to the detriment of so many creative Pakistanis.”

Read the complete news story here.

VoicePk – Terms used in the online rules may be redefined if misused; says IT minister – October 10, 2020

According to the director of Bolo Bhi, Usama Khilji, very little has changed in the draft of the social media rules, except the name of the rules. For him, the “consultation” was just an eyewash to show that stakeholder input is being taken, without actually taking it into account.

According to the director of Bolo Bhi, Usama Khilji, very little has changed in the draft of the social media rules, except the name of the rules. For him, the “consultation” was just an eyewash to show that stakeholder input is being taken, without actually taking it into account.

“The new rules will have a chilling effect on freedom of speech of all citizens of Pakistan, apart from being open to abuse by the authorities given the vague criteria of unlawful online content. Section 37 of PECA & these rules should not exist if we are to be a democracy that grants due rights to citizens” says Khilji.

Read the complete story here.

Yahoo! Money – Pakistan bans TikTok over ‘immoral content’ – October 09, 2020.

“TikTok is a major source of entertainment for lower and middle-class Pakistanis, as well as illiterate citizens that includes half the population as it is video-based and easy to use,” said Usama Khilji, a digital rights activist, who said the ban violates freedom of speech.

Read the complete news story here.

Reuters – Pakistan blocks social media app TikTok for “immoral and indecent” content – October 09, 2020

Usama Khilji, director of Bolo Bhi, a Pakistani group advocating for the rights of internet users, said the decision undermined the government’s dreams of a digital Pakistan.

“The government blocking an entertainment app that is used by millions of people, and is a source of income for thousands of content creators, especially those coming from smaller towns and villages, is a travesty to democratic norms and fundamental rights as guaranteed by the constitution,” said Khilji.

Read the complete news story here.

VoicePk – Draft social media rules give unfettered powers to PTA: activists – October 06, 2020

Usama Khilji, director of Bolo Bhi, a digital rights advocacy organization, says the draft rules have not been made public, adding that the federal government was using the pretext of vulgarity and obscenity on the social media as a popularity stunt. Khilji says the draft rules as reported in the press was similar to the rules objected by civil society. He says civil rights organisations had boycotted consultations called by the government to review the social media rules. Under the draft rules, the PTA has assumed authority of the judge, jury and executioner, he says. The high court has held that social media companies must be given time for due process which under the draft rules is six hours minimum to 24 hours maximum for removal of content. According to Khilji, the draft rules will be used to threaten and block media platforms in order to clamp down on critical voices and limit freedom of expression in the country.

Read the complete story here.

BBC Urdu – علی ظفر پر میشا شفیع کے الزامات: کیا ہتکِ عزت کے قانون کا استعمال آواز اٹھانے والوں کو خاموش کروانے کے لیے کیا جا رہا ہے؟ – October 02, 2020

‘بولو بھی‘ کی شریک بانی فریحہ عزیز نے بی بی سی سے بات کرتے ہوئے تصدیق کی کہ جب یہ نوٹسز کا سلسلہ شروع ہوا تو ستمبر 2019 میں انھوں نے ایف آئی اے کی کارروائی کا سامنا کرنے والوں کی جانب سے کمیٹی کی چیئرمین کو خطوط پیش کیے اور ان کے تجربات کی روشنی میں کمیٹی کو بتایا کہ ایف آئی اے کس طرح غیر قانونی طریقے اپناتے ہوئے ان افراد کو ہراساں کر رہا ہے اور ان افراد کو شکایت کی نقل تک نہیں دی جا رہی۔

اس کے ساتھ فریحہ عزیز نے کمیٹی کے سامنے قانونی ماہرین کی جانب سے ہتک عزت قوانین سے متعلق سفارشات بھی پیش کیں۔

Read the complete story here.

International Federation of Journalists – Women journalists unite against online attacks – October 01, 2020

Farieha Aziz, a journalist and co-founder of Bolo Bhi – a civil society organization geared towards advocacy, policy and research in the areas of digital rights and civic responsibility –  agrees that online attacks on women journalists have not only become more widespread but also more systematic.

“These attacks are being launched in an organised manner and from official accounts,” she said, underlining the harm the attacks have on the mental well-being of journalists. “While women have been facing such issues for a long time, the continuous nature of these attacks and the intensity with which they have increased over time, led women journalists to speak out about it and come together to do that.”

“For some it is every day, multiple times a day. To be subjected to constant abuse, sexualised slurs and threats, hacking attempts, it takes a toll and also causes a chilling effect. To manage, journalists stop engaging, posting or checking their mentions. This is also hinders their work.”

Apart from serious threats and abuse, women journalists have had personal data leaked and faced constant hacking attempts of social media accounts. While regulations exist to tackle these crimes, they do not go far enough.

Aziz says that under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (PECA) 2016, there are offences that cover the abuse and can be reported to the FIA (Federal Investigation Agency). Attacks can also be reported to the platform.

“But of course these remedies do not always work,” she said. “Beyond basic safety measures and adopting these, there is little else, unfortunately.”

Read the complete news story here.

NIKKEI ASIA – Pakistan considers TikTok ban over ‘vulgar content’ – October 01, 2020

Usama Khilji, director of Bolo Bhi, an Islamabad-based digital rights group, said that banning TikTok because of “vulgarity” distracts the public from the government’s own failure to protect women from sexual violence.

“On one hand, the government is promoting the face of a digital Pakistan, but how will this work with the threat of bans?” Khilji asked Nikkei. “Banning TikTok will not only hamper development of Pakistan’s digital economy, but also decrease freedom of expression, increase censorship, and diminish digital rights.”

Read the complete news story here.

Arab News – With big red stamp, Pakistan government portal singles out journalists and ‘fake news’ – September 29, 2020

Farieha Azizi, a digital rights activist who heads Bolo Bhi, said the government used accounts like @FakeNews_Buster to beat back media scrutiny and browbeat reporters, and the strategy to attack individuals, rather than organizations, on social media was a deliberate one.
“I’m not saying that you should start targeting the organizations, but the institutions have a mechanism and people to respond,” she said. “But here you’re singling out individuals deliberately, then multiple accounts start targeting them and give threats only because there was a difference of opinion, or an opinion which they [government and its supporters] don’t like.”
“If the government wants to clarify a news item, it should do it from official sources only,” Aziz added, saying the Pakistan government had picked up the term ‘fake news’ from Trump who routinely used it to discredit journalists and play down stories against him.

Read the complete news story here.

Voice of America – پاکستان کے اعتراض پر ہزاروں ویڈیوز ہٹا دی گئیں، ٹک ٹاک انتظامیہ – August 10, 2020

ڈیجیٹل رائٹس پر کام کرنی والی تنظیم ‘بولو بھی’ کے ڈائریکٹر اسامہ خلجی کہتے ہیں کہ ٹک ٹاک کی کمیونٹی گائیڈ لائن پہلے سے موجود تھیں جس میں صارفین کو شکایت کا اختیار بھی دیا گیا ہے۔

وائس آف امریکہ سے گفتگو کرتے ہوئے انہوں نے کہا کہ حکومت کو یہ اختیار نہیں کہ وہ سوشل میڈیا پلیٹ فارمز کو اپنی بات منوانے پر مجبور کرے۔

اسامہ خلجی کہتے ہیں کہ ریاست چاہتی ہے کہ تنقیدی مواد کو روکا جائے اور سیاسی آوازوں کو سنسر کیا جا سکے۔

انہوں نے کہا کہ حکومت قومی ذرائع ابلاغ کے بعد سوشل میڈیا پر اپنی سنسر شپ کی صلاحیت کو بڑھا رہی ہے جو مناسب نہیں ہے۔

Read the complete news story here.

Radio Free Europe RadioLiberty – Tik…Tok: Pakistan’s Media Crackdown Expands To Cyberspace – August 05, 2020

“The state is trying to curb people’s right to freedom of expression using different excuses,” Usama Khilji, director of the Pakistani digital rights group Bolo Bhi, told RFE/RL.

He added that the recent blocking of social media platforms has illustrated how “new momentum is building to restrict freedom of expression on social media.”

Read the complete news story here.

Voice of America – ‘یوٹیوب پر پابندی مسئلے کا حل نہیں‘ – July 23, 2020

ڈیجیٹل رائٹس ایکٹوسٹ فریحہ عزیز نے کہا ہے کہ لگتا ہے ہم نے ماضی کے اپنے اقدامات سے کچھ نہیں سیکھا؛ اور دس سال سے حکومت کا ایک ہی بیانیہ ہے کہ اگر سوشل میڈیا نیٹ ورکس ہماری بات نہیں مانیں گے تو ہم انہیں بند کردیں گے۔

انہوں نے کہا کہ کسی چیز کو بند کر دینا حل نہیں ہے اور نہ ہی آج کے دور میں انٹرنیٹ پر دستیاب کسی پروگرام کو مکمل بند کیا جاسکتا ہے۔

انہوں نے کہا کہ وزیر اعظم کی معاون خصوصی برائے ڈیجیٹل پاکستان اور بعض وفاقی وزرا یوٹیوب پر پابندی کی مخالفت کررہے ہیں۔ لیکن یہی رہنما بیگو، پب جی اور ٹک ٹاک پر پابندی کے حامی دیکھائی دیتے ہیں۔

فریحہ عزیز کہتی ہیں کہ ایسی صورت میں جب سرمایہ کار کو تحفظ نہیں کہ اس پر کب حکومت یا عدالت کی جانب سے پابندی لگائی جاسکتی ہے، ڈیجیٹل پاکستان کیسے آگے بڑھے گا۔

انہوں نے کہا کہ برقی جرائم کی روک تھام کا قانون قابل عمل نہیں اور اگر اس پر عملدرآمد کروایا جائے گا، تو اس کے مطابق ہر چیز نفرت انگیز مواد میں آجائے گی اور سوشل میڈیا کا حال بھی آج کے ہمارے میڈیا جیسا ہی ہوجائے گا۔

Read the complete news story here.

Dawn – PTA urged to reconsider action against TikTok, Bigo – July 22, 2020

“Section 37 of the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (Peca), 2016, gives overbroad powers to the PTA where officers of the executive get to interpret language of Article 19, including reasoning of morality and obscenity, and pass these bans without accountability or tests of reasonableness,” Bolo Bhi director Usama Khilji told Dawn.

Mr Khilji believes it should not be up to the state to dictate morality for citizens, especially when such apps are avenues for creative expression by youths who are otherwise devoid of entertainment.

Read the complete news article here.

Voice of America – پاکستان میں ‘بیگو’ پر پابندی، ‘ٹک ٹاک’ کو آخری وارننگ – July 21, 2020

پاکستان میں ڈیجیٹل رائٹس کی تنظیموں نے پی ٹی اے کی جانب سے ان پابندیوں پر تشویش کا اظہار کیا ہے۔

ڈیجیٹل رائٹس پر کام کرنی والی تنظیم ‘بولو بھی’ کی ڈائریکٹر فریحہ عزیز کہتی ہیں کہ انٹرنیٹ پر دستیاب ایپس اور ویب سائٹس پر مکمل پابندی لگانا ممکن نہیں ہے تاہم اس قسم کے اقدامات سے صارفین اور ٹیکنالوجی کی صنعت متاثر ہوتی ہے۔

وائس آف امریکہ سے گفتگو کرتے ہوئے انہوں نے کہا کہ یہ انتخاب صارف کا ہونا چاہیے کہ کیا مواد مناسب یا غیر مناسب ہے۔ ریاست کو ان معاملات میں مداخلت نہیں کرنی چاہیے۔

اُں کے بقول کمپیوٹر اور سوشل میڈیا ایپس صارف کو یہ اختیار دیتے ہیں کہ وہ غیر اخلاقی مواد پر خود سے پابندی لگا سکیں۔

انہوں نے کہا کہ برقی جرائم کی روک تھام کے قانون 2016 کے تحت پی ٹی اے کو حاصل از خود نوٹس اور دیگر حاصل اختیارات پر سول سوسائٹی پہلے سے تحفظات کا اظہار کرتی آ رہی ہے۔

فریحہ عزیز کہتی ہیں کہ پی ٹی اے کا کام صارفین کے حقوق کا تحفظ ہے جیسا کہ حالیہ دنوں میں کراچی میں کیبل آپریٹرز ایسوسی ایشن نے اپنے مطالبات کی منظوری کے لیے انٹرنیٹ بند کردیا تاہم اس پر نگران ادارے کی جانب سے کوئی کارروائی نہیں کی گئی۔

خیال رہے کہ رواں ماہ کے آغاز میں پی ٹی اے نے آن لائن گیم پلیئر ان نان بیٹل گراؤنڈز (پب جی) کو عارضی طور پر بند کردیا تھا۔

Read the complete news report here.

Reuters – Pakistan issues last warning to TikTok over vulgar content – July 21, 2020

“This seems to follow an ideology of state control over information flows in Pakistan, and entertainment apps such as these are an easy target given they’re used mostly by young people,” said Usama Khilji, director at Pakistani digital rights group Bolo Bhi.

“It should not be up to the state to dictate morality for citizens.”

Read the complete news story here.

Al Jazeera – Pakistan puts TikTok on ‘final notice’ over ‘obscenity’ concerns – July 21, 2020

Farieha Aziz, co-founder of digital rights group Bolo Bhi, said the telecommunications authority has been exercising “blanket powers” on censorship.

“[The criteria] is just what the PTA believes or what consensus it believes exists in society,” she told Al Jazeera.

“These terms have never been defined [and] the PTA is making these decisions unilaterally and with no transparency.”

Recent research by Bolo Bhi found the telecommunications regulator had been using content reporting mechanisms with global hosting and social media companies – such as Google, Facebook and Twitter – to report political speech as being “anti-state”.

Read the complete news story here.

Dawn – Govt begins consultation on online harm rules – June 03, 2020

“The entire process is disingenuous. After cabinet approval, rules essentially are in effect. The PM cannot overrule cabinet nor delegate authority he does not have to the PTA. No one should lend this process legitimacy. Rules should be withdrawn not discussed,” said Farieha Aziz of Bolo Bhi.

Read the complete news story here.

Samaa – Application filed to intervene in MPTH transmission case – March 18, 2020.

In the application, Aziz argued that the relief sought in the case violated the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression granted by the constitution of Pakistan. “Political and social morality is more likely to advance through free expression of ideas rather than the use of legal measures to stifle speech,” it read.

Aziz, in her application, said that the portrayal of women in Khalil Ur Rehman Qamar’s script was offensive but she recognised that to “prohibit speech and expression on the grounds that it insults or offends is contrary to the spirit of fundamental rights”.

Read the complete news story here.

The News – Women who stood up against patriarchal mindset on Feb 12, 1983 remembered – February 12, 2020.

The co-founder and director at Bolo Bhi, an advocacy forum of Digital Rights, Farieha Aziz, shared how feminism is considered as an abusive word in our society. “It is believed to be anti-men,” she pointed out and added that in the rest of the world there’s a war going on against the patriarchal mindset, whereas in our society liberalism is just a lifestyle. “We don’t have any space for liberal political thinking,” she said.

In 1980s, she shared that there was a political social change against certain pieces of legislation that came into existence in the Ziaul Haq era. Women didn’t have equal citizen opportunities back then.

Speaking on the Women March, she said that interestingly, the backlash of the Aurat March was that it was criticised by men as well as women. After seeing slogans such as ‘Khana khud garam karlo’ [heat your food yourself], the general opinion has been that these are non-issues. But when women of the Aurat March talk about domestic violence and rape, they are considered immoral women who want to spread the culture of divorce in the society.

“There was opposition in parliament to domestic violence legislation,” she said and added that earlier any woman who used to report rape was put behind bars.

Read the complete news story here.